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Zero Dark Thirty

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Jessica Chastain’s performance as “Agent” Maya is as restrained as Kathryn Bigelow’s direction of one of the most monumental moments in detective and military history.

It’s so restrained (as is the direction) that one almost thinks it’s for real.

I honestly can’t imagine how two men could have taken the story of UBL (Osama Bin Laden) being meticulously hunted down and killed and made it as restrained and yet still menacing as this absolute triumph of a movie.  But Bigelow and Chastain do just that.

Chastain, hard as nails, yet soft as silk, throughout, carries the movie with so much ease it’s like she isn’t actually acting.  She is miraculous.  But only because Bigelow affords her the space to breathe, the edit to breathe, the whole idea to breathe with such subtlety that it’s almost as if there IS NO DIRECTOR.

Is this documentary or drama?

There’s been much made about the depiction of torture (especially water-boarding) in the first reel that it sounded to me like I was about to embark on a torture-porn outing.  Believe none of that.  This is no torture porn movie.  The only porn is what inspired it.  Yes, the beginning is uncomfortable, but it is considered, restrained and important in the storytelling.

For two hours this astonishing piece of film does next to nothing other than scratch away at the forensics of tracking down the most untrackable mass murderer in history before exploding into the dimmest lit, scariest half hour of action you’ll see in any action movie.  And you know the outcome.  Weird.

It IS a documentary really.

Character development is minimal and storytelling is at best sketchy, off camera, challenging to the viewer (but that’s what’s so involving about it).

It’s pindrop territory – I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a quiet cinema audience.  Popcorn eating would have incited a riot in our multiplex.

James Gandolfini makes his second cameo performance this year in an Oscar nominated movie (after Argo) and it shows that he is politically connected  and wise of late career choice.  Soon, perhaps, we’ll see him in full-bodied, lead role political material.

Two hours in, the first bars of music creep into the soundtrack.  The effect is electrifying.  It almost immediately disappears before re-emerging in the credits. It’s that kinda film where music seems unimaginable, yet Alexandre Despal’s contribution is vital.

The final scene sees Chastain reflect on her achievement.  Her tears were echoed by mine.

A monumental achievement in cinema.

 


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